MBBS #1 and Willy the Caulker

Joey____

I collected some random photos at the Maine Boat Builders Show (MBBS.)  This is the first of a series – caulking tools. 

Back around 1966 I had a couple bunks where you needed to avoid sleeping on your back lest your eye sockets fill up with water.  Someone advised me to go over to the railways and look up Willy the Caulker (the late Wilfred Amero).  Willy agreed to caulk my entire deck for something like $35 if I remember right, as long as I reefed the seams first.  GREEN DRAGON was at the Beacon at the time and every day for about a week he came over at the end of his day at the railways.  It was really something watching him go at it.  Willy had the touch and my decks were tight for years. 

No modern plastic glop will keep old fir decks tight like cotton driven in right.

Al Bezanson

MBBS 1, caulking

3 comments

  • Willie was a great guy period, but he was especially a great guy to be around, lots of fun…I worked at the Railways during my school vacations and have nothing but great memories, mostly about the crew of guys that worked there…I assisted Willie many times, sometimes he would have me swing the “beetle”, the large caulking hammer, when he was tending to a large seam…Russell Fairweather and Ron Foote headed up the painting crew, and were a delight to be around…the railways was the place that I learned, and lived the term “Mug Up”, enjoying my coffee and old fashioned plain donut at break…the railways is where I learned to play Cribbage, I still do with friends to this day, and got to know great people like Russell Grinnell…and it was where I met my friend, and a good friend of GoodMorningGloucester, Ron Gilson…thanks Al, for bringing it all back to me!

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  • Thanks Toby. So good to hear this from someone who knew him well. I had never met him before, but Willie agreed as a favor to help me out by putting in an hour a day after the railways. That was brutal hard work he did. As you know, caulking is a learned art, and he was the best. My deck is 8 planks wide at the house and the seams all have to be caulked together to avoid spreading a seam. He was fast and the cotton would just roll off his fingers. You knew by the sound he was setting it just right.

    I think it was the summer after he caulked that my wife and I had to duck up the Piscataqua to dodge a hurricane, and I remember spending a Sunday at a lobster dock in Kittery while it poured all day and nary a drop got below. We spent the day reading the NY Times with the Shipmate going and praised Willie all the while.

    The photo above was at the booth of Antique Tools and More, Searsport, Maine http://www.jpearsonantiques.com/

    Oh, and about that plain donut. That’s the only kind in my book, and the other day I was in a Dunkin that didn’t have a one. It’s a sorry state we’ve come to.

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  • I’ve always been amazed by the craft and amount of work it takes to keep a wooden ship afloat. These caulkers are amazing. Out here in the midwest, we all float around in fiberglass bathtubs. The idea of sailing in, essentially, a sponge, is totally unknown.

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